Landowner dissatisfied with airport draft, property access
By LINDSEY GEMME
Published: Thursday, August 18, 2011 4:13 AM MST
|Staff photo by Lindsey Gemme, Landowner Tom Wilson uses a laser to outline the easements on his property on a PowerPoint projection at a Council meeting last month, while consultants Jim Harris and Eric Pfeifer of Coffman & Associates look on. Harris and Pfeifer put together the new airport master plan draft.|
Despite the unanimous vote by Council to approve the adoption of a new master plan for the city’s airport last week, it did not pass lightly.
With the results of an update two years in the making in front of them to approve and pass on to the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), Council heard from one particular dissenter. For over an hour after consultants with Coffman & Associates, Inc. presented the new plan to Council, landowner Tom Wilson of Toltec Airpark, LLC dickered with Council about how the plan would affect his adjacent property.
The biggest hang-up for Wilson was that his property has two easements on both sides right along the airport. The easements, which have been on books since 1985, Wilson plans to build a 100-foot taxiway on. This would allow incoming flights taxiway access from the airport’s runway onto private land.
But the Master Plan updates, both 10 years ago and the current one, did not make note of those easements and indicated cutting off access to the airport from his property.
“The proposed final draft of the airport master plan does not treat the easements properly,” explained Wilson’s legal representative Paul Conant. “It presumes that there are certain things that are going to happen that are inconsistent with the property rights that are granted with the easements.”
And the city could be in trouble if it went ahead with the plan as it was currently laid out. “Because Mr. Wilson will have to do something, then, to protect his property,” Conant added.
The new plan draft detailed that a potential “through-the-fence” agreement could be made between the city and Wilson for easy access from his property to the airport; but the FAA frowns heavily on those agreements as they can lead to violations of federal airport regulations. The only agreeable conditions for FAA approval on through-the-fence agreements would be for adjacent properties to be used for aeronautical purposes or is a residential airpark.
“In general,” stated in the draft of the master plan update, “the FAA will only consider through-the-fence access if all existing property is already developed and the airport is unable to purchase adjacent property.”
Wilson’s property has remained undeveloped since its purchase in the 1970s.
Councilwoman Belinda Akes stated that she had been involved with the update since the beginning, and has met several times with Wilson on the issue. Wilson had been one of the members of the 15-member advisory committee for the update draft, and President Jim Harris thanked Wilson for his time on that committee.
“The main goal is that both parties want to see this happen,” Akes explained. “The city needs to move forward and do what it takes to make it work between both parties.
“I know at least 10 people who would park their planes at the airport if hangars were available,” she added.
Councilman Joel Belloc echoed those sentiments, explaining that the city needs to improve the airport, which would both benefit the city and surrounding property owners. “Both parties need to work together to resolve this issue,” Belloc said.
Interim Community Development Director Rick Miller said that he liked the fact that Wilson had land adjacent to the airport, and could be advantageous. He suggested that when the city sends the draft to the FAA, the access points and easements are show in the maps.
Conant explained that defining access points are still a “restriction of property rights.”
“Working out access points when there is future development is not possible because any future development may depend on something other than what is being discussed tonight,” he told Council. “If the city wants to do something on the airport property through the easement that Mr. Wilson in that sense co-owns with the city, there has to be some acknowledgment….any diminution in Mr. Wilson’s property rights as the owner of the easement that overlays the airport property is something that devalues his property rights. This is where his objection lies.”
City Manager Ruth Osuna explained that the city will continue to work with Wilson on the issue even if they approve the draft. As Wilson develops his property, the city will work with the FAA regarding a through-the-fence access point in regards to the easements.
“Staff is not ignoring the easement and is taking it into consideration,” Osuna added. “From a safety standpoint, the access points on the map are the best place to allow through-the-fence access.”
Conant maintained that although there were safety concerns, “that still does not change the fact that what the city is doing id restricting those property rights.”
After a brief 20-minute executive session with Council, Mayor Byron Jackson asked Wilson if he would accept the city sending in an amendment with their approval of the draft to the FAA, outlining the easements.
Miller explained that the maps going to the FAA would define the easements as a continuous curb cut along the taxiways, which would “probably not sit in great favor with the FAA.”
With the easements as they are, Conant believed that the FAA might not like it and would hold back its grant monies which the city depends on to do upgrades to the airport. But Conant agreed that if the easements were property represented, “my client’s objection would go away.”
Council unanimously approved the plan update with that amendment showing the easements.
Copyright © 2011 – Tri Valley Central
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